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BROCHURE RACK

Whale shark butchered for its fins in the Philippines

04/03/2010 08:54:13
whales/marine_2009/whale_shark_fin

The disgusting site of a magnificent Whale shark that has had its fins hacked off and been left to die a painful death.

WWF Condemns Whale Shark Poachers, Calls for Enhanced Enforcement

February 2010. An 18-foot long Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) has been mutilated in the Philippines by having its fins cut off. The shark had been de-finned and was fighting for its life, and was found floating belly-up amidst the rough waters of Bahay Kambing, a sheltered. Its twin pairs of dorsal and pectoral fins had been sliced off - the soft, white flesh glistening in the morning rays. Knife-marks were evident all over its tail but, perhaps mercifully, it proved too thick to cut through.

"Scuba divers from Mabini's Acacia Resort first discovered the mutilated shark," recounts Casita Isabel resort owner Linda Reyes-Romualdez. "The shark was towed to nearby Caban cove, whose waters were more placid. Together with a fisheries patrol unit, volunteers splinted the shark by flanking it with bamboo poles and installing a net underneath to minimize further injuries. We wanted to ease its pain."

Sadly but unsurprisingly, the great sharks wounds proved too great and the shark, died the next day. The incident came right after the conclusion of the third Convention on Migratory Species for Sharks, The talks were held to safeguard shark populations in the Indo-Pacific region.

Fishermen from other districts
Fisheries patrol units reported that for several days, fishing vessels equipped with powerful strobe lights have been operating in Mabini waters, sometimes as close as 300 meters from shore. Responding to complaints from local resorts, the fishery patrol personnel and local police asked the fishermen, who were not local, to leave. They did.

Several nights later, the fishermen returned, this time to the adjacent municipality of Tingloy. The fishing went on until concerned divers informed Mabini of the grisly discovery.

Butchered for its fins, this Whale shark was killed
to satisfy appetites for shark fins.

Illegal act
"WWF condemns the perpetrators of this illegal act," declares WWF-Philippines Conservation Programmes Vice-President Joel Palma. "This is a real eye-opener, for it proves that the slaughter of endangered species - even one as big as a butanding (Whale shark) - can still take place if we let our guards down. The public and private sectors must come together to refine and polish current conservation mechanisms."

Once Hunted, Now Legally Protected
Filipinos have hunted whale sharks for decades, the waters off Bohol, Misamis Oriental and Sorsogon were once fishing grounds for butanding hunters. Shark fins and meat are usually exported to China, Hongkong and Taiwan. Whale shark flesh, called ‘Tofu meat' sells for roughly $8 per kilogramme, while dried shark fins are valued a hundred times more - approximately $800 per kilogramme.

Protected since 1998
BFAR reported that at least 200 whale sharks were slaughtered in 1997 alone. On 15 January 1999, 64 boxes labelled as Lapu-lapu or grouper meat made it through the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and were shipped to Taiwan. Taiwanese authorities later informed authorities that the boxes contained whale shark meat. WWF has long spearheaded whale shark conservation in the Philippines, and together with the DENR and BFAR successfully lobbied for their legal protection - which took effect in1998.

Whale sharks are now classified by the IUCN as vulnerable and are protected by Philippine law under Republic Act 8550 and Fisheries Administrative Order 193. The possession or slaughter of a single whale shark merits a maximum jail term of four years, coupled with a large fine and the cancellation of the offending party's fishing licenses. Whale sharks accidentally caught in fishing gear must be immediately released, while whale sharks which have drifted to shore must be surrendered to the nearest BFAR office. Manta rays (Manta birostris) are also covered by the order.

WWF calls for all sectors to step up enforcement efforts nationwide. Adds Palma, "More poachers are out there - and they will not be at rest just because we are."

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